Who’d have thought Andrea Leadsom could be so funny?
Walking up the stairs to Berwin Leighton Paisner’s London office, ready to watch a Brexit musical written by one of its EU law partners, I couldn’t help but think: “Why had no one thought of this before?”
The events of the past 18 months really have been the stuff of satire, so much so lawyer Chris Bryant admitted in a post-performance Q&A that writing the play had been “an extreme form of therapy” for him.
Having scanned coverage of ‘Brexit — The Musical’ at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, promo shots of a bumbling, bad blonde wig-wearing Boris Johnson led me to assume I was about to watch some tasteless slapstick.
Sure, there was caricature: a clueless Theresa May resorted to googling how to leave the EU, while a pathetic Michael Gove was bossed about by wife Sarah Vine. However, the show was taken up a level by its quantity of more subtle nods to the madness that is British politics. May’s cringey Mexican wave moment, Jeremy Corbyn’s awkward high-five with Emily Thornberry — the clever ‘blink and you’ll miss them’ references took the show from blatant Brexit bash to clever political satire.
Leaving the subtleties very much to one side, the highlight of any musical is of course its songs.
There are plenty of growers in the show’s tracklist so stick with them — my toe was tapping by the end of May’s “if I’m a bloody difficult woman, it’s only because I have to deal with bloody difficult men” solo. Besides, who wouldn’t want to see a dressing gown and bulldog slippers-donning Michael Gove singing “I don’t understand it — what do you mean we’ve won?” alongside a union flag underwear-clad BoJo?
— Legal Cheek (@legalcheek) September 5, 2017
If that doesn’t interest you, later there’s a cross-legged Corbyn, wearing just one welly, craving the “organic wine” and “funny fags” of Glastonbury. I was particularly tickled by the waterproof festival-goers who entered the stage at this point, given that I’d been asked by BLP to decant my glass of Pimms into a plastic cup, so was feeling very festival-y myself.
At times, the jokes dragged. Watching a charismatic, yet unnervingly sexual, BoJo celebrate his accession to Foreign Secretary was hilarious for about 20 seconds, after 30 I was ready to move on. And the show won’t win any awards for its staging, either. Exposed speakers and lighting to one side, the darker hair poking out from under May’s grey wig was really bothering me.
But all this was almost entirely forgotten when the undeniable star of the show made her debut about half an hour into the hour and ten performance.
Bursting onto the stage chanting “look at my credentials,” a manically-smiling, orange blazer-wearing Andrea Leadsom entered with might in her desperate bid to knock May off her Conservative leadership race throne. Winning the Falklands War, pulling down the Berlin Wall — there’s little the virtually unknown politician hasn’t (claimed to have) done.
Aside from winning the trophy for the only person to tap dance in the show, she’s its only true Brexiter too.
Gove and Johnson admit early on that their Leave allegiances were merely a power play and that “leaving Europe will be a catastrophe”. Leadsom, by contrast, doesn’t think “you can ever trust those continentals”, having had her heart broken aged 17 by a gorgeous Italian named Alejandro. “He was shagging my best friend”, she raged, prompting roars of laughter from the audience.
An evening spent watching a recently resigned David Cameron rejoicing at no longer having to mix with “normal” people (i.e. “oiks”) who drive their own Mercedes and drink prosecco can only lead one to ask: What the hell is happening in British politics? Thankfully, Bryant and co have given audiences the opportunity to laugh, not just worry, about the answer to that question — for the evening at least.
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